Just testing: Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic

Cinderella brand or genuine Volvo contender? Tim Gibson weighs the merits of Subaru’s rugged AWD estate

By Tim Gibson

Next time you head to a rural Waitrose, look closely at the vehicles lined up in the car park.

    (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road)  

In among the inevitable Volvo XC70s and Audi All Roads, you’ll most likely see at least one Subaru Outback. Chances are it’ll be caked in filth, with a pervasive stink of dog, horse or farm about it (and maybe all three). It may well be extremely elderly.

Now, I guarantee that when its owner (who could be wearing red cords and a tatty Barber jacket) clambers aboard, it will start on the button, with nary a stutter. Instead, you’ll hear the distinctive burble of its flat-four boxer engine, before the car roars off majestically.

Then you’ll be left with a sense of crushing disappointment in whatever non-Subaru vehicle you happen to drive.

You see, Subarus have an inalienable presence. They last for donkeys’ years (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road) and combine rugged all-wheel drive capability with genuine driver pleasure.

Remember those gold-wheeled Imprezas that used to yang around town in the 1990s? There’s a reason they were so popular among boy racers of every age.

All of which begs a question: why aren’t there more Subarus on the road? If they’re so brilliant, why aren’t the buying public flocking to their local dealership and placing an order?

As with most things, it’s all to do with branding. Subaru has long been regarded as a niche manufacturer, a bit like Saab, or Volvo before it got cool. If you know the company, you’ll most likely stick with it forever. But it’s rare to see a Scooby on the front cover of What Car? They’re just not mainstream enough.

Didn’t stop me from getting an all-new Outback on test, though. This is the first version in a while not to be available with a turbo diesel engine, which is an initial source of regret to me. But Subaru’s heritage has always been in petrols. It only launched diesel derivatives in the 2000s to meet the burgeoning demand for heavy fuel that was prompted by government incentives. And we all know how that worked out.

So a 2.5-litre petrol lump it is – and a lovely one at that. Power output is 175PS, allied to a maximum torque of 235Nm @ 4,000rpm that’s delivered through a smooth Continuously Variable Transmission with step changes to feel like a conventional automatic. It’s not sh*t-off-a-shovel fast, but it’s more than enough to raise a smile along a quiet back road.

If I have one concern about the move away from diesel power, it’s to do with the Outback’s popularity as a tow car. I’ve pulled a heavy caravan with a diesel version of the vehicle’s predecessor, and it was brilliant in every way. But the petrol plant lacks low-down torque, and I wonder if it will be quite so formidable with a tonne and a half of metal strapped to the back.

    The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – steering-responsive headlights.  

That said, the Outback takes a lot of beating when solo. Despite raised suspension, it’s far more car-like than your average SUV or crossover. Not quite as refined as a Volvo V60 XC, but more competent in genuinely challenging off-road conditions. And the Subaru’s relative lack of plushness will undoubtedly inspire confidence in your average country dweller.

Not that the Outback is in any way spartan. The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – my absolute favourite around dark country lanes – steering-responsive headlights.

All models get Subaru’s brilliant X-MODE all-wheel drive system that breeds genuine capability in the rough stuff. I once drove a version of this car through a waterlogged Welsh quarry and was amazed by its ability to keep up with a fleet of highly modified Land Rover Defenders.

The car also gets Subaru’s Volvo-challenging EyeSight technology, which delivers features such as adaptive cruise control and emergency autonomous braking. That makes it an easy companion for long hauls up the motorway, bringing welcome reassurance, especially if you’re tired.

Sure, it’s a bit twitchy in comparison to your average family estate or saloon. But such vehicles won’t have the go-anywhere magnificence that is hard wired into the Outback. And they won’t give you the same sense that you’re driving a genuinely unusual vehicle, helping you stand apart from the crowd.

This distinctive character is both a blessing and a curse. Subaru dealers tell me they struggle to get buyers into their vehicles, because of their quirky image. They also struggle to get converts to upgrade, because Subarus seem to get better as they age.

That probably explains why the franchise network is relatively sparse. If you want to test drive an Outback, you’ll have to travel a bit further than your local town. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, in which case your local dealership is probably right next door. That’s a clue to the company’s strongest markets.

This won’t be a problem once you’ve bought the car. A recent survey by warranty provider MotorEasy identified Subaru as the UK’s most reliable manufacturer. So you should only need to visit the workshop for routine servicing, which is likely to be more affordable than for prestige brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

All told, then, the Outback is a highly credible vehicle. If you like its image (personally I love it) you’ll no doubt be smitten. If you think it’s just too agricultural, so be it. God invented Volvo for people just like you.

On test

  • Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic CVT
  • 175PS
  • 33mpg combined (official figures)
  • 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
  • 166g/km CO2 emissions
  • Price: £33,025 (but deals to be had on nearly new and ex-demos)

Tim Gibson has written about cars for 25 years. His work regularly appears in The Daily Telegraph and other national media.

Published: 10 May 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just testing: how to pick up a tax break on your next company car

You may also enjoy: Just cooking: barbecue rotisserie prime ribs of beef

Jobs currently available

Commercial Manager
Sector: Retail
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910265
About the role

Just Recruitment have a fantastic opportunity for a bright and ambitious Commercial Manager to join an exciting company as they rapidly expand nationwide.

Based in Colchester, Essex, you will be working as part of their supplier negotiation team.

Duties will include:

  • Negotiating purchasing agreements to ensure the best deal for the business.
  • Delivering support to both managers and estimators in their pricing and queries.
  • Providing a point of contact for our suppliers to help deliver their message to our staff and customers.
  • Attending events, shows and exhibitions to network and identify further possibilities for a better deal.
  • Working alongside the Product File team to creating pricing structures to enable our staff to trade competitively.
  • Identifying new product ranges and suppliers that will provide futureproofing for the years to come.
  • Providing direct assistance to the Commercial Director with support from the other Commercial Managers.
  • A good level of competency with Excel is a must. Experience in either a similar role or a related industry is preferred.
  • Key personality traits would be a keen grasp of numbers and an enthusiastic, dynamic, ‘can do’ attitude.
Read more
Maintenance Engineer: Mon to Thur 4.30pm – 2.30am
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £25,000 - £33,000 per annum
Location: Sudbury, Suffolk
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910254
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an enthusiastic, motivated and talented individual for the position of Maintenance Engineer on behalf of a company based in Sudbury, Suffolk.

Primary responsibility:
The primary responsibility of this role is to lead preventative and reactive mechanical maintenance in order to support Operations

Key responsibilities:

  • Leading preventative and reactive mechanical maintenance to support Operations
  • Assisting electrical support and associated work to support Operations
  • Responsible for leading infrastructure maintenance and upgrades
  • Provide support to the contractor coordinator dealing with external contractors and associated permitting systems
  • Provide support for Project Lead assisting with identifying potential suppliers and equipment, liaising with companies through to installation and commissioning stage
  • Provide support required to maintain the engineering side of SAP with regards to PPM scheduling, PPM job sheets, tracking breakdowns and keeping equipment infrastructure up to date
  • Responsible for ensuring continuous site improvements are achieved in line with Lean manufacturing principles e.g. 5S
  • Facilitate service contract management including regulatory requirements for maintenance-related activities
  • Ensure site engineering documentation and associated training is kept up to date in line with site procedures
  • Responsible for sourcing quotes and raising purchase requisitions to maintain stock levels

Knowledge, skills and abilities:

  • Advance modern apprenticeship, BTEC Level 3 in engineering or HNC in Engineering, or equivalent
  • 17th (current) edition wiring regulations certification preferred but not essential
  • IPAF access license 3a and 3b qualification preferred
  • PASMA tower qualification preferred
  • Experience working in a busy manufacturing environment
  • Experience in change management and driving continuous improvement
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills with high attention to detail
  • Excellent communication skills with the ability to effectively communicate various organisational levels
  • Ability to understand and manage Engineering SAP system
  • Ability to understand and use procurement purchasing system
  • Good working knowledge of health and safety requirements including permitting systems
  • Ability to respond and react quickly to changing production demands.

Hours of work:

  • Hours of work are 40 hours per week with overtime as required to support production demand - Monday to Thursday 4.30pm to 2.30am.
Read more
Industrial Engineer
Sector: Engineering & Technical
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Sudbury
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910249
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Industrial Engineer for a medical device manufacturer based in Sudbury, Suffolk.

Industrial Engineers are key within their newly created team whose primary responsibility is to deliver continuous improvement initiatives across all levels/functions of the business.  

Ideally, you will be an accredited Lean Six Sigma Green / Black Belt practitioner, with some experience within a manufacturing engineering environment.

You will be the driving force behind fostering a culture of sustainable change through the creation, coaching and embedding of LEAN methodology, its tools, and the supporting framework to deliver business transformation.

This is a great opportunity for development.  If you're great at coaching and motivating others we'd love to hear from you.

Responsibilities include:

  • To identify and deliver improvement activities across the business through employing process improvement methodologies and the application of innovative thinking
  • To work with key business stakeholders to build a Continuous Improvement environment to support an on-going programme of change
  • To lead, facilitate and coach LEAN/process improvement based workshops or Kaizens to drive ideas and solutions
  • To support the delivery of better value and greater efficiency through the identification and elimination of unnecessary complexity within business processes and identify better ways of working
  • To identify trends and process variations as part of establishing a Continuous Improvement monitoring system
  • To assist in the development and implementation of 'best-in-class' Continuous Improvement strategy
  • To take ownership of change initiatives from evolution/efficiency identification through to project delivery via internal governance and controls
  • To ensure the business impact and project objectives/dependencies are identified, reported on and managed at all times
  • To set up programs, deliver coaching and run projects across all functions
  • To complete post implementation reviews to ensure successful delivery has been achieved and to ensure that improvements can be made for future projects (lessons learned)

Suitable applicants will ideally have some work experience in the medical device industry or other regulated industry.

  • Accreditation in Lean Six Sigma Green/Black(preferred) belt as a minimum
  • Experience in Manufacturing / Engineering is essential
  • Significant experience of hands-on implementation of Continuous Improvement programs and LEAN solutions
  • Ability to operate and communicate within a cross-functional team made up of both technical and non-technical members
  • Manage time efficiently to meet reactive business demands
  • Ability to set-up, facilitate and lead improvements/Kaizen sessions with a range of business stakeholders
  • Strong understanding of how to interpret business needs and translate them into operational requirements
  • Project management skills highly desirable
Read more
Senior Mechanical Engineer
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Saffron Walden
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910231
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Senior Mechanical Engineer for a leading manufacturing company specialising in the design and assembly of mechanical and electromechanical products.

The role will involve leading and overseeing the engineering and design activities from the development of existing solutions or generation of new designs.

You will be carrying out technical research, testing and engineering analysis as well as generating test and technical documentation.

You will also be overseeing R&D activities, ensuring compliance with internal/customer requirements and UK as well as international legislation.

Skills and qualifications:

  • Educated to degree standard (or further, Masters, PHD etc.) in Engineering subject.
  • Understanding of technical requirements capture/compliance matrix, clause by clauses.
  • Solid engineering knowledge and background should have previously held a position of Senior Engineer or Principle Engineer, design skills desirable and 3D CAD capable (Catia V5 preferred).
  • Ability to both generate and present, technical presentations and documents.
  • Working understanding of design review / New Product Introduction process.
  • Practical FMEA / FMECA / Risk Engineering experience.
  • Basic understanding of reliability and safety analysis.
  • Ability to perform structural calculations (hand calculations).
  • Working knowledge of LV directive, IEE regs, appreciation of standards and legislation.

Technical zeal, engineering diligence.

Read more
Mortgage Advisor
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Sudbury
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910240
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Mortgage Advisor to join an established mortgage company based in Sudbury.

As part of a local group who have been operating for over 20 years, our client has a great reputation in the local area. Their office is rapidly expanding and they are looking to take on someone with a real hunger to succeed within the industry.

You will have:

  • A CeMAP qualification
  • Experience within mortgage broking or financial services
  • Great communication skills
  • A detail-oriented nature
  • Experience of dealing with clients, both in-person and over the phone
  • Strong market awareness
  • Great knowledge of Microsoft packages and be generally computer literate

In return, you will receive a competitive base salary plus commission.

Read more
Part Time Environmental, Health & Safety Advisor
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910239
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Part-Time Environmental, Health & Safety Advisor on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

  • To act as the Competent Person for health and safety matters relating to manufacturing, cleaning and grounds maintenance, across the organisation
  • Develop, maintain and deliver plans to ensure compliance, including audits, inspections and the closure of actions for the implementation of ISO 45001
  • Provide advice and support on safe working practices and safe systems of work to managers and supervisors responsible for repairs & maintenance and to managers responsible for any manufacturing-related areas of work, so that they are aware of their respective obligations in terms of Health and Safety in the workplace
  • Advise managers and team leaders on legal requirements and changes in legislation as necessary
  • Ensuring all necessary Health & Safety procedures and guidance are in place and available to managers and employees and that these are reviewed aa well as updated
  • Complete and review risk assessments and COSHH documentation as required
  • Produce reports on Health and Safety issues for Managing Director as required
  • Manage uniform and PPE orders

Requirements:

  • NEBOSH Diploma or IOSH Managing Safety Certificate
  • Experience in a safety role in a manufacturing environment
  • Experienced with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • Compliance with workplace policies and procedures for H&S, risk assessment and risk control
  • Active participation in activities associated with the management of workplace health and safety
  • Identification and reporting of health and safety risks, accidents, incidents, injuries and property damage at the workplace
  • Correct use of appropriate personal protective equipment
Read more